UK sending helicopters to Ukraine for first time, says Ben Wallace

The UK is sending helicopters to Ukraine for the first time, the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has announced, in an escalation of support for Kyiv’s resistance against Vladimir Putin.

Three Sea King helicopters will be provided, with the first already in Ukraine, according to PA Media. They are the first piloted aircraft to be sent by the UK since the Russian invasion began in February.

Wallace also said an extra 10,000 artillery rounds were being sent to help Ukraine secure the territory it has recaptured from the invading forces in recent weeks.

“Our support for Ukraine is unwavering. These additional artillery rounds will help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks,” he said during a visit to Norway.

The fresh support comes after Rishi Sunak announced a further £50m in defence aid as he visited Kyiv over the weekend.

The Royal Navy provided six weeks’ training on Sea Kings in the UK for Ukraine’s armed forces and engineers, the Ministry of Defence said. The fresh support follows a commitment to provide 1,000 surface-to-air missiles and 125 anti-aircraft guns.

Wallace was in Norway meeting allied defence ministers on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

The news came as the MoD said Russia was probably close to exhausting its stock of Iranian-manufactured uncrewed aerial vehicles after launching several against Ukraine since September. In its daily intelligence update posted on Twitter, the MoD said Moscow was likely to seek to resupply soon.

Russian strikes on Wednesday killed a newborn baby at a Ukrainian maternity ward, as well as two other people elsewhere. Ukrainian emergency services said Russian rockets had smashed into a building overnight in Vilniansk, part of the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

They distributed video of emergency personnel trying to free a man trapped waist-deep in the rubble of what appeared to be the destroyed maternity ward. “As a result of a rocket attack on the territory of the local hospital, the two-storey building of the maternity ward was destroyed,” they said.

There was “a woman with a newborn baby as well as a doctor” inside the building at the time, they added.

The baby died while the woman and doctor were rescued from the rubble, rescuers said. According to preliminary information, nobody else was trapped under the debris.